La Semana Que Pasó
(Abril 30, 2005)
preparado para usted por el profesor Fred S. Singer
Science and Environmental Policy Project
Nuevo en la Web: El bien conocido investigador alemán del clima, Hans von Storch, provee una honesta apreciación de los miedos climáticos en la importante revista Der Spiegel - y explica por qué los científicos a menmudo colaboran para producirlos. Pero el público no es estúpido, y le hará daño a la ciencia a largo plazo.
We just saw an example this past week when Jim Hansen et al published an estimate of Earth's energy imbalance and hyped it as a smoking gun for AGW (anthropogenic global warming), together with speculations about the breakup of ice sheets and sea-level rise. My reaction, in an interview published in The Washington Times, April 29, 2005 (NASA scientists' ocean study yields 'smoking gun')
S. Fred Singer, director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project, called the report bunk.
The idea that energy can be stored and linger in the oceans and can later raise temperatures makes no physical sense, Mr. Singer said. It violates the laws of thermodynamics and is not tenable
While the Royal Society was raising unjustified fears about deleterious effects of AGW on world agriculture, Prof. David Bellamy, the colorful British TV personality, held forth in his usual blustery style (Item #1).
His doubts about AGW being a problem are echoed by an Earth Day essay that decries the dangers of extreme environmentalism (Item #2).
The public knows little about global warming -- and doesn't care, an MIT survey shows (Item #3).
Maybe they know from experience that they can and do adapt to large temperature changes. We have learned that coral bleaching is another mechanism of adaptation to higher temperatures and now learn how fish adapt (Item #4).
[From CCNet editor:
yet another "obvious" fact about global warming and its "dire" effects goes down the toilet ... Memo to eco-alarmists: life adapts to changing conditions - get over it.]
And before we blame developed nations and industry for global warming and other ills, we note that carbon emissions from south Asia are contributing significantly to Arctic warming, according to a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Item #5).
As an energy bill moves forward in Congress, it is appropriate to discuss what can be done to stimulate more production of natural gas through inventive leasing policies (Item #6).
Meanwhile we are reminded of the exaggerated fears created by the Chernobyl accident and the depressing effect it has had on development of nuclear power (Item #7).
CLIMATE CATASTROPHE CANCELLED is the title of a new video compiled by a Canadian organization called the "Friends of Science. They have a website at
The video provides a comprehensive criticism of the evidence presented by the IPCC that carbon dioxide is harming the climate. The really impressive feature is the large number of relatively young Canadian academics and scholars who now refuse to accept the arguments for CO2-induced global warming. The video may be viewed in 25 minute bites on the Friends' website at
And finally, The Flat Earth Award goes to Fred Singer, thanks to the support from readers of TWTW. THANK YOU! The final score after 5565 votes is: Michael Crichton: 26%; Rush Limbaugh: 32%; Fred Singer: 42%
The Christian Science Monitor printed my acceptance speech on Earth Day at
Be sure also to read Comments by voters on
And for the real scoop on the Flat Earth, see Item #8
We now approach the Chicken Little Award, for which we have two obvious nominees:
1. Al Gore (for Earth in the Balance and invention of the Internet)
2. Paul Ehrlich (for failed predictions too numerous to mention)
We need a third nominee: what about a European lady Dr. Gro Harlam Brundtland?
[A socialist since the age of 7(!), she eventually became minister of environment and then prime minister of Norway (off and on from 1981 to 1996). In the 1980s she gained international recognition, championing the principle of Sustainable Development as the chair of the World Commission of Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission), which led to the Earth Summit of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, the Climate Treaty, and the Kyoto Protocol. As head of the World Health Organization (1998 - 2003), her zealous enforcement of the DDT ban led to a successful program of population control in Africa and Asia.]
New on the Web
How Global Warming Research
is Creating a Climate of Fear
By Hans von Storch and Nico Stehr
The polar ice caps are disappearing! The Gulf Stream is soon to reverse!
Right? Well, maybe. But calling such apocalyptic theories into question is becoming more and more difficult for skeptical scientists. Meanwhile, the public is getting tired of being fed a diet of fear.
Theories of global warming have left laboratories far behind. Now, they are the stuff of Hollywood. Gone are the days when climate researchers would be content to sit in their ivory towers, packed to the gills with supercomputers, crunching numbers. Nowadays, their field is more likely to deliver the material of thrillers, and they themselves have acquired the leading roles. The issue has become so hotly contested and the forecasts so spectacular that they are no longer merely the stuff of media reports. And professionals who make their daily bread staging the apocalypse have taken the bait. Last year, filmmaker Roland Emmerich portrayed a global climate collapse triggered by human activity in his film "The Day After Tomorrow"
. In January, the film's literary counterpart, the novel State of Fear
by best-selling author Michael Crichton, appeared in German bookstores, six month after having been published in English.
Crichton's thriller deals with the violent conflict between sober-minded realists and radical idealists when it comes to the subject of climate. The idealists' weapon is organized fear of abrupt climate change, and they interpret any out-of-the-ordinary weather event as evidence of global warming caused by humans. PR consultants deliver the following advice to environmental groups: "You have to structure your information in such a way that it can always be corroborated, no matter what kind of weather we have." The realists, who claim that there is little evidence that meteorological extremes are caused by human activity, are fighting a losing battle. Their dry scientific facts don't stand a chance in a PR battle with the horrific scenarios painted in Technicolor by the climate idealists.
The film and the novel are similar in some respects. While the impending catastrophe in Emmerich's film is climatic, Crichton predicts an economic collapse in his novel. In both cases, however, the culprits are the greenhouse gases produced by human beings. In the film, it's the emissions themselves that lead to disaster, whereas the novel deals with the effects of fear of an impending climatic catastrophe. In Crichton's book, the idealists are so obsessed by their mission that, in a last-ditch effort to shake up public opinion, they finally trigger the catastrophes they themselves have predicted.
Overselling to get attention
Despite some artful fictionalization of the facts, Crichton has certainly delivered an accurate portrayal of the dynamics of communication among the scientific community, environmental organizations, government and civil society. The scientific community does in fact face a serious problem when it comes to public understanding and perception of climate change. Scientific research faces a crisis because its public figures are overselling the issues to gain attention in a hotly contested market for newsworthy information.
Everything can be blamed on human-caused climate change. Here, the flood that devastated parts of Eastern Germany in 2002. The climate change caused by human activity is an important issue. But is it really what one US senator calls the "most important problem on the planet?" Don't global conflicts and poverty present challenges of a similar magnitude? And what about population growth, demographic changes and more common natural disasters?
Nowadays, there are few people in the United States who are interested in the Greenhouse Effect. At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s it was a different story. There was the great drought of 1988 and then the 1993 Mississippi floods -- both events that really should have provided a wake-up call to the public vis-à-vis climate change. But it failed to materialize in the United States, and interest in the subject quickly waned. According to a survey conducted by CBS in May 2003, environmental problems were no longer ranked among the six hottest topics. Even among environmental problems, the issue of climate change was only ranked seventh. Although public opinion in Germany has taken a somewhat different course, how much longer will that be the case?
Catastrophe is interesting: Sober analysis boring
Like the protagonists in Crichton's thriller, the general belief is that in order to keep public attention focused on the issue of "climate catastrophe" (a term, incidentally, that doesn't exist outside of German-speaking countries), it has to be presented "somewhat more attractively." In the early 1990s, just as Germany was being hit by severe windstorms, the German media were reporting that the storms were becoming more and more severe. Since then, storms of this magnitude have once again become less common in northern Europe, a fact now ignored by the media.
They have also ignored the fact that changes in barometric pressure measured in Stockholm since the days of Napoleon reveal no systematic change in the frequency and severity of storms. Instead, the media are now filled with stories of heat waves and floods. Like the characters in Crichton's novel who incite public fear, the media are now claiming that all kinds of extreme events are increasing in frequency. Using this logic, a drought in the German state of Brandenburg fits together seamlessly with a catastrophic flood of the Oder River and the two events don't contradict each other.
In addition to normal floods and storms, other more dramatic threat scenarios -- such as a reversal of the Gulf Stream that would lead to a drop in temperatures in large parts of Europe or the rapid melting of the Greenland ice shelf -- are being added to the image of approaching disaster. There was even public speculation as to whether the Asian tsunamis could somehow be attributed to the disastrous work of the human race.
And while one river is flooding, the other is drying up. Also because of global warming. Here, the Rhine River during the super-hot summer of 2003. Public attention won't remain focused on these issues for long. Soon people will become inured to climate warnings and return to more everyday matters: joblessness, trans-Atlantic enmity, Turkey's joining the European Union, or Prince Charles's marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles. Because of our short attention spans, we will experience how the prophets of doom paint the dangers of climate change in ever more lurid detail. One can already imagine the future images of horror: a breaking off of the western Antarctic ice shelf, which would cause sea levels to rise dramatically, and, after a few decades of unbridled carbon-dioxide emissions, an abrupt temperature shift that would make the earth's atmosphere as incompatible to human life as that of Venus. Can such predictions, which have been known to the public for a long time, readily compete with the Hollywood images created by directors like Emmerich?
The price for provoking fear is high, because it's a practice that sacrifices the otherwise prized principle of caution. A scarce resource -- public attention and confidence in the reliability of science -- is being consumed without being renewed by a practice of offering positive examples.
But what do climate researchers themselves think about the issue, and how do they interact with the media and the public at large?
Is there scientific consensus?
The public statements made by well-known German climate researchers create the impression that the scientific fundamentals of the climate problems have essentially been solved. They claim that the scientific community has already established the conditions for taking concerted action. In this case, concerted action means reducing greenhouse gases as much as possible.
This is a view that in fact does not correspond to the situation in the scientific community. That's because a significant number of climatologists are by no means convinced that the underlying issues have been adequately addressed. Last year, for example, a survey of climate researchers from all over the world revealed that a quarter of respondents still question whether human activity is responsible for the most recent climatic changes.
The public no longer knows what to believe -- and is getting bored of the subject. But most researchers do believe that a shift in global climate caused by human activity is already occurring, and that it will accelerate in the future and become even more apparent. Higher temperatures and higher sea levels will accompany this shift. Scientists predict that in the more distant future, that is, in about 100 years, a substantial rise in greenhouse gas levels in the Earth's atmosphere will lead to more severe precipitation events in the northern hemisphere; some regions could experience more severe and others weaker storms.
But there are always scientists for whom, in keeping with the maxims of the alarmists in Crichton's book, these scenarios are insufficiently dramatic. For this reason, they are increasingly drawing connections between current extreme weather events and the climate shift caused by human activity. They do, it is true, tend to use cautious language in drawing such parallels and interviews become exercises in understatement. When asked such questions as: "Are high water levels on the Elbe River, the hurricanes in Florida, and this year's mild winter evidence of climate catastrophe?" they respond that while this cannot be proven scientifically, some believe it to be the case. None of these statements is incorrect, but when combined they lead to the obvious conclusion that of course these weather events are proof of climate catastrophe, a statement so explicit that no one would venture to volunteer it.
Always choose the most dramatic figure
The pattern is always the same. The significance of individual events is turned into material suitable for media presentation and is then cleverly dramatized. When the outlook for the future is discussed, the scenario that predicts the highest growth rates for greenhouse gas emissions -- which, of course, comes with the most dramatic climatic consequences -- is always selected from among all possible scenarios. Those predicting significantly smaller increases in greenhouse gas levels are not mentioned.
Every prediction has to trump the last. Melting Antarctic ice is one of the current horror scenarios du jour. Who benefits from this? The assumption is made that fear compels people to act, but we forget that it also produces a rather short-lived reaction. Climate change, on the other hand, requires a long-term response. The impact on the public may be "better" in the short term, thereby also positively affecting reputations and research funding. But to ensure that the entire system continues to function in the long term, each new claim about the future of our climate and of the planet must be just a little more dramatic than the last. It's difficult to attract the public's attention to the climate-related extinction of animal species following reports on apocalyptic heat waves. The only kind of news that can trump these kinds of reports would be something on the order of a reversal of the Gulf Stream.
All of this leads to a spiral of exaggeration. Each individual step in this process may seem harmless, but on the whole, the knowledge imparted to the public about climate, climatic fluctuations, climate shift and climatic effects is dramatically distorted.
Unfortunately, the corrective mechanisms in science are failing. Public reservations with regard to the standard evidence of climate catastrophe are often viewed as unfortunate within the scientific community, since they harm the "worthy cause," especially because, as scientists claim, they could be "misused by skeptics." Dramatization on a small scale is considered acceptable, whereas correcting exaggeration is viewed as dangerous because it is politically inopportune. This means that doubts are not voiced publicly. Instead, the scientific community creates the impression that the scientific underpinnings of climate change research are solid and only require minor additions and adjustments.
Science losing objectivity
This self-censorship in the minds of scientists ultimately leads to a sort of deafness toward new, surprising insights that compete with or even contradict the conventional explanatory models. Science is deteriorating into a repair shop for conventional, politically opportune scientific claims. Not only does science become impotent; it also loses its ability to objectively inform the public.
An example of this phenomenon is the discussion surrounding the so-called hockey stick, a temperature curve that supposedly portrays developments of the last 1,000 years. The curve derives its name from its hockey stick-like shape. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a panel of climate researchers established by the United Nations, rashly institutionalized the hockey stick curve as an iconic symbol of human-induced climate change. In the curve, the upward-tilting blade of the hockey stick that follows decades of stable temperatures represents human influence.
In an article we published in the professional journal "Science" in October 2004, we were able to demonstrate that the underlying methodology that led to this hockey stick curve is flawed. Our intention was to turn back the spiral of exaggerations somewhat, but without calling the core statement into question, which is that human-induced climate change does exist. Prominent members of the climate research community did not respond to the article by engaging us in a dispute over the facts. Instead, they were concerned that the worthy cause of climate protection had been harmed.
Other scientists are succumbing to a form of fanaticism almost reminiscent of the McCarthy era. In their minds, criticism of methodology is nothing but the monstrous product of "conservative think-tanks and misinformation campaigns by the oil and coal lobby," which they believe is their duty to expose. In contrast, dramatization of climate shift is defended as being useful from the standpoint of educating the public.
The principle that drives other branches of science should be equally applicable to climate research: dissent drives continued development, and differences of opinion are not unfortunate matters to be kept within the community. Silencing dissent and uncertainty for the benefit of a politically worthy cause reduces credibility, because the public is better informed than generally assumed. In the long term, the supposedly useful dramatizations achieve exactly the opposite of what they are intended to achieve. If this happens, both science and society will have missed an opportunity.
Hans von Storch, 55, is the director of the GKSS Institute for Coastal Research (IfK) in Geesthacht, Germany, which researches water and climate in coastal areas. Together with Nico Stehr, 62, a sociologist at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany, is a long-time researcher of public attitudes about climate change.
1. Global Warming? What a load of poppycock!
by Professor David Bellamy
Daily Mail, July 9, 2004
Whatever the experts say about the howling gales, thunder and lightning we've had over the past two days, of one thing we can be certain. Someone, somewhere - and there is every chance it will be a politician or an environmentalist - will blame the weather on global warming.
But they will be 100 per cent wrong. Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth. I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy makers are not.
Instead, they have an unshakeable in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement. Humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide - the principal greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up.
They say this is global warming: I say this is poppycock. Unfortunately, for the time being, it is their view that prevails.
As a result of their ignorance, the world's economy may be about to divert billions, nay trillions of pounds, dollars and rubles into solving a problem that actually doesn't exist. The waste of economic resources is incalculable and tragic.
To explain why I believe that global warming is largely a natural phenomenon that has been with us for some 13,000 years and probably isn't causing us any harm anyway, we need to take heed of some basic facts of botanical science.
For a start, carbon dioxide is not the dreaded killer greenhouse gas that the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the subsequent Kyoto Protocol five years later cracked it up to be. It is, in fact, the most important airborne fertiliser in the world, and without it there would be no green plants at all.
That is because, as any schoolchild will tell you, plants take in carbon dioxide and water and, with the help of a little sunshine, convert them into complex carbon compounds - that we either eat, build with or just admire - and oxygen, which just happens to keep the rest of the planet alive.
Increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, double it even, and this would produce a rise in plant productivity. Call me a biased old plant lover but that doesn't sound like much of a killer gas to me. Hooray for global warming is what I say, and so do a lot of my fellow scientists.
Let me quote from a petition produced by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which has been signed by over 18,000 scientists who are totally opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, which committed the world's leading industrial nations to cut their production of greenhouse gasses from fossil fuels.
They say: 'Predictions of harmful climatic effects due to future increases in minor greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are in error and do not conform to experimental knowledge.'
You couldn't get much plainer than that. And yet we still have public figures such as Sir David King, scientific adviser to Her Majesty's Government, making preposterous statements such as 'by the end of this century, the only continent we will be able to live on is Antarctica.'
At the same time, he's joined the bandwagon that blames just about everything on global warming, regardless of the scientific evidence. For example, take the alarm about rising sea levels around the south coast of England and subsequent flooding along the region's rivers. According to Sir David, global warming is largely to blame.
But it isn't at all - it's down to bad management of water catchments, building on flood plains and the incontestable fact that the south of England is gradually sinking below the waves.
And that sinking is nothing to do with rising sea levels caused by ice caps melting. Instead, it is purely related to an entirely natural warping of the Earth's crust, which could only be reversed by sticking one of the enormously heavy ice caps from past ice ages back on top of Scotland.
Ah, ice ages... those absolutely massive changes in global climate that environmentalists don't like to talk about because they provide such strong evidence that climate change is an entirely natural phenomenon.
It was round about the end of the last ice age, some 13,000 years ago, that a global warming process did undoubtedly begin.
Not because of all those Stone age folk roasting mammoth meat on fossil fuel campfires but because of something called the 'Milankovitch Cycles,' an entirely natural fact of planetary life that depends on the tilt of the Earth's axis and its orbit around the sun.
The glaciers melted, the ice cap retreated, and Stone Age man could begin hunting again. But a couple of millennia later, it got very cold again and everyone headed south. Then it warmed up so much that water from melted ice filled the English Channel and we became an island.
The truth is that the climate has been yo-yoing up and down ever since. Whereas it was warm enough for Romans to produce good wine in York, on the other hand, King Canute had to dig up peat to warm his people. And then it started getting warm again.
Up and down, up and down - that is how temperature and climate have always gone in the past and there is no proof they are not still doing exactly the same thing now. In other words, climate change is an entirely natural phenomenon, nothing to do with the burning of fossil fuels.
In fact, a recent scientific paper, rather unenticingly titled 'Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Over The Last Glacial Termination,' proved it. It showed that increases in temperature are responsible for increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, not the other way around.
But this sort of evidence is ignored, either by those who believe the Kyoto Protocol is environmental gospel or by those who know 25 years of hard work went into securing the agreement and simply can't admit that the science it is based on is wrong.
The real truth is that the main greenhouse gas - the one that has the most direct effect on land temperature - is water vapour, 99 per cent of which is entirely natural.
If all the water vapour was removed from the atmosphere, the temperature would fall by 33 degrees Celsius. But, remove all the carbon dioxide and the temperature might fall by just 0.3 per cent. Although we wouldn't be around, because without it there would be no green plants, no herbivorous farm animals and no food for us to eat.
It has been estimated that the cost of cutting fossil fuel emissions in line with the Kyoto Protocol would be 76 trillion. Little wonder, then, that world leaders are worried. So should we all be.
If we signed up to these scaremongers, we could be about to waste a gargantuan amount of money on a problem that doesn't exist - money that could be used in umpteen better ways: fighting world hunger, providing clean water, developing alternative energy sources, improving our environment, creating jobs.
The link between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming is a myth. It is time the world's leaders, their scientific advisers, and many environmental pressure groups woke up to the fact.
The danger to mankind is from environmentalism.
The fundamental goal of environmentalism is not clean air and clean water; rather, it is the demolition of technological/industrial civilization.
Environmentalism's goal is not the advancement of human health, human happiness, and human life; rather, it is a subhuman world where "nature" is worshipped like the totem of some primitive religion.
In a nation founded on the pioneer spirit, environmentalists have made "development" an evil word. They inhibit or prohibit the development of Alaskan oil, offshore drilling, nuclear power and every other practical form of energy. Housing, commerce, and jobs are sacrificed to spotted owls and snail darters. Medical research is sacrificed to the "rights" of mice. Logging is sacrificed to the "rights" of trees. No instance of the progress that brought man out of the cave is safe from the onslaught of those "protecting" the environment from man, whom they consider a rapist and despoiler by his very essence.
Nature, they insist, has "intrinsic value," to be revered for its own sake, irrespective of any benefit to man. As a consequence, man is to be prohibited from using nature for his own ends. Since nature supposedly has value and goodness in itself, any human action that changes the environment is necessarily immoral. Of course, environmentalists invoke the doctrine of intrinsic value not against wolves that eat sheep or beavers that gnaw trees; they invoke it only against man, only when man wants something.
The ideal world of environmentalism is not twenty-first-century Western civilization; it is the Garden of Eden, a world with no human intervention in nature, a world without innovation or change, a world without effort, a world where survival is somehow guaranteed, a world where man has mystically merged with the "environment." Had the environmentalist mentality prevailed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we would have had no Industrial Revolution, a situation that consistent environmentalists would cheer at least those few who might have managed to survive without the life-saving benefits of modern science and technology.
The expressed goal of extreme environmentalism is to prevent man from changing his environment, from intruding on nature. That is why environmentalism is fundamentally anti-man. Intrusion is necessary for human survival. Only by intrusion can man avoid pestilence and famine. Only by intrusion can man control his life and project long-range goals. Intrusion improves the environment, if by "environment" one means the surroundings of man the external material conditions of human life. Intrusion is a requirement of human nature. But in the environmentalists' paean to "Nature," human nature is omitted. For environmentalism, the "natural" world is a world without man. Man has no legitimate needs, but trees, ponds, and bacteria somehow do.
They don't mean it? Heed the words of the consistent environmentalists. "The ending of the human epoch on Earth," writes philosopher Paul Taylor in Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics, "would most likely be greeted with a hearty 'Good riddance!'" In a glowing review of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, biologist David M. Graber writes (Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1989): "Human happiness [is] not as important as a wild and healthy planet . . . . Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along." Such is the naked essence of environmentalism: it mourns the death of one whale or tree but actually welcomes the death of billions of people. A more malevolent, man-hating philosophy is unimaginable.
The guiding principle of environmentalism is self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of longer lives, healthier lives, more prosperous lives, more enjoyable lives, i.e., the sacrifice of human lives. But an individual is not born in servitude. He has a moral right to live his own life for his own sake. He has no duty to sacrifice it to the needs of others and certainly not to the "needs" of the nonhuman.
To save mankind from environmentalism, what's needed is not the appeasing, compromising approach of those who urge a "balance" between the needs of man and the "needs" of the environment. To save mankind requires the wholesale rejection of environmentalism as hatred of science, technology, progress, and human life. To save mankind requires the return to a philosophy of reason and individualism, a philosophy that makes life on earth possible.
3. Public's Knowledge About Climate Change Is Cloudy
The average American knows nearly nothing about efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and is confused about the effects of nuclear power and renewable energy, according to a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey that researchers say has serious policy implications. MIT drew its conclusions from a survey of 1,200 people on a range of climate change-related questions.
As in other public surveys, the environment ranked fairly low when compared to other issues such as terrorism or the economy. Furthermore:
- Out of 21 national and world issues, the environment ranked only 13th as being most important.
- Global warming ranked sixth out of 10 environmental problems, below issues such as water pollution and toxic waste.
- Thirty percent of respondents believed nuclear power plants contribute to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (they don't).
- Less than 4 percent of respondents knew of the terms "carbon dioxide capture" and "carbon sequestration."
- About half of respondents supported renewable energy such as solar and wind power, but supported dropped to 25 percent when the respondents were informed of the higher costs.
However, the respondents indicated they were willing to pay up to $6.50 per month in additional utility charges to fund solutions to global warming.
Source: Brian Stempeck, "Poll Finds Public Awareness Sorely Lacking," Greenwire, March 24, 2005; Tom Curry et al., "How Aware is the Public of Carbon Capture and Storage?" Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
For Greenwire text: http://www.wapa.gov/es/greennews/2005/mar2805.htm
For Curry text: http://uregina.ca/ghgt7/PDF/papers/peer/137.pdf
4. A FALSIFICATION OF THE THERMAL
Biology Letters, 27 April 2005
A falsification of the thermal specialization paradigm: compensation to elevated temperatures in Antarctic fish by Dr F Seebacher, Dr B Davison, Ms CJ Lowe and Dr CE Franklin
Antarctic fish, living in water that varies by less than 1º C annually and with a body temperature of -1.9º C, are often regarded as the ultimate thermal specialist. Not surprisingly, past research has shown that rapid increases in water temperature of only a few degrees have a negative impact on the performance and survival of Antarctic fish. Here we show that after being exposed to warmer water for several weeks, Antarctic fish compensate for the initial negative impact of elevated temperatures and regain their original performance levels despite being several degrees warmer. These findings indicate that rising temperatures do not necessarily have a long-term negative impact, and that the concept of physiological compensation should be included in prognoses of the impact of global warming on biodiversity.
Contact: Dr Frank Seebacher, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, School of Biological Sciences A08, SYDNEY NSW2006, Australia
5. Carbon emissions from south Asia are contributing
significantly to Arctic warming, according to a study in the
Journal of Geophysical Research.
Researchers from Columbia University and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies used satellite images to examine the effects of soot on climate change and found that Arctic warming coincided with the increase in pollution during the late 20th century.
Dark soot particles darken the surface of ice, causing it to absorb rather than reflect sunlight. As a result, ice warming increases. Soot particles also warm the air and contribute to cloud formation. Additionally:
- South Asia's industries account for about 30 percent of Arctic soot (black carbon), while North America, Russia and Europe each contribute about 15 to 20 percent.
- The worldwide burning of biomass (forests and vegetation) accounts for about 28 percent of Arctic soot.
- Russia accounts for 24 percent of Arctic sulfates, while south Asia contributes 17 percent.
Furthermore, British scientists estimate that global warming could rise by up to 11 degrees Celsius, a two-fold increase over previous estimates.
Scientists have assumed that most emissions come from Northern Europe and Asia, but coauthor Dorothy Koch of Columbia University notes, "We were surprised to find that much of it comes from further south."
Source: Janet Pelley, "Asian Soot Emissions Linked to Arctic Melting - Study," Greenwire, March 24, 2005; and Dorothy Koch and James Hansen, "Distant Origins of Arctic Black Carbon: A Goddard Institute for Space Studies Model Experiment," Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 110, No. D4, D04204, Paper No. 10.1029/2004JD005296, February 25, 2005. Courtesy of NCPA
For text: http://knowledge.fhwa.dot.gov/cops/italladdsup.nsf/0/e78fa415e4c3a68085256fce00641127?
6. Natural Gas Leasing
By Ken Silverstein
Director, Energy Industry Analysis
Moratoria on natural gas production are curbing supplies, particularly at a time when national energy policy is encouraging the use of natural gas. And the drilling policies, which have been in place for decades, are becoming increasingly important as natural gas prices are up by 344 percent from 1998 levels. Proponents of more access to federal properties now off limits have therefore taken on a new tack to win greater production rights: Giving coastal states the opportunity to opt out of the federal cessation to certain offshore oil and gas leasing.
Natural gas had been labeled the fuel of choice after the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 were signed by the elder President Bush. While the preponderance of new power generation is to be fueled with natural gas, producers have had a difficult time winning new permits to drill and to lay pipe in the ground. That's pushed such prices higher as well as contributed to the reliance on other fuel sources such as coal.
The most immediate question is whether the optimistic calculations as to the demand for natural gas can hold. U.S. production has dropped by nearly 5 percent while Canadian imports have declined by 23 percent from 2001 to 2004. Meantime, existing wells are producing less gas. Those economic realities coupled with prices that are now about $7 per million BTUs, could likely curb future expected demand and force utilities to build more coal-fired generation that is cheaper and more plentiful.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the key energy subcommittee, and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., have introduced legislation to give states more authority to grant drilling rights in areas just off their coasts. Those properties have been restricted to development under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCS Act) of 1953. The current measure, which would permit gas-only leasing in those areas in which the moratoria now exist, would also allow the producing states to receive 12.5 percent of the qualified production revenues.
Supporters of the legislation say that 70 Tcf of natural gas reserves is located in those places that are now off-limits to production. Domestic gas usage now stands at 22 Tcf annually. "[We] firmly believe that we can increase access and supplies in an environmentally safe and sound manner, says Bert Kalisch, CEO of the American Public Gas Association. Restrictions are ironic in light of other federal policies which favor gas use because of clean-burning properties. These two policies cannot coexist if our economically competitive economy is to continue.
The OCS Act defines the property in question as those coastal waters that are at least three miles offshore that are under U.S. jurisdiction. The law gives the U.S. Secretary of the Interior the responsibility to administer mineral exploration and development in those places. The Interior Department has the right to grant leases to the highest qualified responsible bidder. Currently, about 35 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States each year is produced in the Outer Continental Shelf.
7. Chernobyl Comes of Age
By Roger Bate
September 23, 2004
Eighteen years ago, the world's worst nuclear accident occurred. Newspaper reports at the time reflected the near-universal public hysteria: The Daily Mail filled half its front page with the words "2000 DEAD"; the New York Post claimed that 15,000 bodies had been bulldozed into nuclear waste pits. But the overreaction to the accident caused far more harm than the meltdown itself, as it mistakenly led to the halting of nuclear programs in most Western countries, including the United States.
As Chernobyl comes of age, now seems like a good time to take an adult assessment of the whole affair. UNSCEAR's (the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) website tells a surprising story: At 1:21 a.m. on April 25, 1986, the reactor crew at Chernobyl's number four reactor ran a test to see how long the turbines would spin following a power cut. It was known that this type of reactor was very unstable at low power, and automatic shutdown mechanisms had been disabled before the test.
The flow of coolant water diminished, power output increased, and when the operator tried to shut down the reactor from its unstable condition arising from previous errors, a peculiarity in the design caused a dramatic power surge. The fuel elements ruptured and the resultant explosive force of steam lifted the cover plate off of the reactor, releasing fission products into the atmosphere.
A second explosion threw out fragments of burning fuel and graphite from the core and allowed air to rush in, causing the graphite moderator to burst into flames. The graphite burned for nine days, releasing a total of about 12 x 10^18 Becquerel of radioactivity about 30 to 40 times that of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It just could not be any worse: Corners had been cut from the very inception of the reactor's design, right through construction, operation, and maintenance. Training and safety procedures were negligible. The Supreme Soviet that routinely disregarded human life was as negligent in nuclear-reactor policy as it was in everything else. Even The Simpsons's woeful nuclear power-plant owner, Mr. Burns, would have been ashamed of it.
The complete destruction of the reactor killed 31 people, including 28 from radiation exposure, most of whom were firefighters working on the roof. A further 209 people on site were treated for acute radiation poisoning and 134 cases were confirmed (all of whom recovered). Since then, an increase in childhood thyroid cancer has been reported, although it is not certain that this is not due to increased surveillance. There has been no other increase in radiation-induced disease, congenital abnormalities, or adverse pregnancy outcomes.
If this had been an ordinary industrial accident, safety standards would have been improved, and that would have been the end of the story. For instance, who (apart from those directly affected) remembers the explosion at a fertilizer plant in Toulouse, France, in September 2001? It killed 30 people, injured more than 2000, and damaged or destroyed 3000 buildings.
No, the biggest tragedy of Chernobyl was that radioactivity was governed by preposterous safety regulations that forced the authorities to take extreme and damaging action against the very people they were trying to protect. Until very recently, radiological protection (and chemical regulations) depended on the linear no-threshold (LNT) theory. This says that, because high levels of exposure can cause death, there is no safe lower limit. If this sounds like a reasonable level of precaution, consider this: 750º F will cause fatal burns, while 75º F is a lovely summer's day. Vitamin A is an essential trace chemical in our diet but is toxic at high levels. The dose makes the poison, for chemicals and for radiation.
On the basis of this false assumption, nearly 400,000 people were forcibly evacuated from areas around Chernobyl where radiation was actually lower than the normal background levels in Cornwall and five times lower than at Grand Central Station in New York. To these poor unfortunates, there was damage done. Psychosocial effects among the evacuees are emerging as a major problem. Zbigniew Jaworowski, a medical adviser to the U.N. on the effects of radiation, estimates that nearly five million people in the former Soviet Union have been affected by severe psychological stress, leading to psychosomatic diseases. These include gastrointestinal and endocrinological disorders and are similar to those arising from those that accompany other major disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and fires. Perhaps saddest of all is that as many as 200,000 "wanted" pregnancies ended in abortion, in order to avoid non-existent radiation damage to the fetuses.
It may seem crass to talk about money in this context, but according to the UNDP and UNICEF, over $100 billion was spent just in the Ukraine on post-Chernobyl "public health" measures. Just imagine how much real good could have been done with that much money. Furthermore, Jaworowski says that the cost to Belarus was about $86 billion. These are astonishing sums for relatively poor former Communist countries.
Apportioning blame between the media and the Supreme Soviet is a difficult task. But unfounded Western fears based on the LNT hypothesis undoubtedly encouraged the Soviet mass evacuation program. Yet that inaccurate LNT hypothesis still forms the basis of radiation thinking and it's past time that was changed. Nuclear power has dangers, which are less in terms of actual deaths per unit energy produced than most other forms of energy generation. But as long as this exaggerated image of Chernobyl endures, people will continue to imagine the costs of nuclear energy to be far higher than they really are.
Roger Bate is a visiting fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.
8. The Real Scoop on Flat Earth
From April 4, 2005, JunkScience.com
Will the real Flat Earth-ers please stand up? - the global warming believers at FlatEarthAward.org prominently ask visitors to their site,
Remember when scientists were attacked for believing that the earth was round? That same denial of scientific fact is now plaguing the world's understanding of global warming.
The Flat Earth-ers, however, are as wrong about people being attacked for believing the Earth was round as they are about global warming.
As Jeffrey Burton Russell, former professor of history at the University of California Santa Barbara, has pointed out,
A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others, in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters -- Leukippos and Demokritos for example -- by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans.
Nor did this situation change with the advent of Christianity. A few--at least two and at most five--early Christian fathers denied the sphericity of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side, tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.
Not only is there no historical basis for notion that people were persecuted for believing that the Earth was round, even the notion that medieval people thought the Earth was flat is a myth.
Flat Earth? Global warming? I guess one myth is as good as another for the gullible/guileful (pick one) global warmers.
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